Is there a dress code for the handlers at the Westminster dog show? Here’s What to Do Next

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Custom-designed suits are common at Westminster, as is attire from St. John, a label popular for its knit fabric suits that enable female handlers to run and kneel on Westminster’s purple runway without worrying about a wardrobe malfunction.

She was wearing a custom-designed black skirt suit with rhinestones on Tuesday while awaiting the crowning of “Best of Show” at New York’s Madison Square Garden later in the evening.

“This is an old sport and it’s still very formal,” said Holly Maxwell, a chihuahua owner who runs a personal shopping business called “The Winning Look” for handlers. “We try to get a little bit of sparkle here and there, a little bit of stretch, no splitting at the seams. Everything elegant and classy.”

For male and female handlers alike, comfort is paramount when they prepare to run around the ring with their coiffed dogs, but they say it is also important that they look their best and complement their dogs’ .

Seven finalists, including a Havanese, a standard poodle, a Shetland sheepdog and a whippet, will vie for the top prize of “Best in Show” in Tuesday’s grand finale.

Two months ago, Adrienne Owen, 28 and a professional handler based in California, started a blog called “Dress 4 Best in Show” after watching the 2013 AKC Eukanuba National Championship and not liking what she saw.

The people at the other end of the leash have long been the butt of jokes for their fashion choices and appearance. The dog-show circuit’s fondness for sequins and rhinestones, dowdy hemlines and rubber-soled flats has long been lampooned in popular culture, from the 2000 Christopher Guest film “Best in Show” to a noteworthy YouTube video entitled “Westminster: White-Women-in-Knee-Length-Suits Group,” featuring clips of unfashionable female handlers at the famed show.

As with many things, men seem to have it easier. Armando Angelbello, 59, of Fort Lauderdale, whose miniature pinscher, Classie, won best in breed last year, says getting dressed for the show ring isn’t that hard for him. “When you go up to Westminster, you wear business suits.”

“It’s the place to shine, so you might go for glittery and silk and satin,” she says. While there’s no official dress code for the show, it’s understood that Westminster is grand ball of the circuit.

But some in the show scene readily admit that there are many style “don’ts” on the circuit.

Is there a dress code for the handlers at the Westminster dog show?